Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Feb. 12, 2011
About the time that Sandy Seabrook’s life was hitting its stride, a winning racehorse was losing his.
As Seabrook and boyfriend planned to get married her future was full of promise. Her college degree in marketing was nearly complete, and she was beginning to imagine a career for herself that combined her love for horses with her nascent marketing skills.
Miles away, on racetrack in Florida, the future for once-winning racehorse Spite the Devil was becoming less certain as the years rolled away from his mid-2000s heyday; a time filled with dramatic wins, including back-to-back victories in the 2004 and 2005 Belmont Empire Classic.
In total, the gelding won $849,000 in 46 starts, winning eight races and placing in 20.
But, his star had faded by Feb. 28, 2007, the day he ran his last race, a claimer at Gulfstream Park. Put out to pasture with a stifle injury, his victories were forgotten.
“By the time I met him, he was thin and a little cut up from being in the pasture,” Seabrook says. “But I could see he was still a beautiful horse, and I figured he needed a friend.”
And Seabrook was in a perfect position to be that friend.
Her life was hitting on all cylinders when she traveled to the Kentucky last July to meet Spite the Devil. Recently married, Seabrook now possessed both a marketing degree, and a new full-time position as marketing manager for racehorse adoption agencyNew Vocations of Marysville, Ohio.
Race name: Spite the Devil
New name: Diego
Sire: Devil His Due
Dam: Samantha D
Foal date: March 20, 2000And as luck would have it, Spite the Devil had been taken in by New Vocation’s Kentucky branch weeks earlier, and having been fully vetted and tried under saddle, was deemed well suited for a new career.
Seabrook, who had spent two years volunteering for New Vocations before she was offered a full-time job, knew upon meeting the shy, nicked-up gelding, that the time was right.
“I was at the point in my life, with my job at New Vocations that it was time to open my heart to a horse of my own,” she says.
Nine years earlier, Seabrook’s first horse, a Thoroughbred named Ladoroyale, was euthanized after developing complications from colic. That gelding, who she’d had since she was 15, and who taught her more than she ever taught him, left an indelible mark.
“That horse showed me that the Thoroughbred has a spirit like no other breed,” she says. “They have such a huge heart, and there’s no end to the lengths they’ll go to try to please.”
“I knew after I got Ladoroyale that I’d be sticking with Thoroughbreds.”
The college grad started volunteering with New Vocations in 2008 as a way to get her foot in the door. She worked nearly full-time doing barn chores, feeding and grooming Thoroughbreds at the Marysville, Ohio facility.
Founded by Dot Morgan in 1992, New Vocations has eight facilities in the United States, five dedicated to re-homing Thoroughbreds and three to helping Standardbreds. Morgan’s daughter Anna Ford is program director, and oversees the Thoroughbred operation.
Since its inception, approximately 3,500 horses have found new homes through New Vocations, and last year the organization adopted out 332 horses, 197 of which were Thoroughbreds.
Seabrook is thrilled to have found her professional niche, working to showcase horses so capable of leading successful next careers.
“I pinch myself everyday that I am working promoting horses. Some people land a job that is just a job. This is different. I have a career immersed in the horse world” that I used to dream about.
And right alongside her is Spite the Devil, now called Diego. He underscores and validates her work, and that of New Vocations.
“I think that many people are quite surprised to learn that ex-racehorses can be successful in the dressage ring, as hunter/jumpers, or anything, even nice little trail horses,” she says. “So many times people say they’re hot-headed, crazy, or just not suitable. But once people get to know the breed, they’re won over right away.”
Her goal is to prove the naysayers wrong. Her work with Diego, and before him, her first Thoroughbred, has shown the breed to be deserving of a second chance.
When Diego first came to New Vocations, he showed himself to be a “mellow” and willing horse when tried under saddle in the ring. And since he came home to Ohio with Seabrook, he has proved a fun and willing partner. “He really just has a heart of gold and will do anything for you,” she says. “Many people still don’t know just how versatile ex-racehorses are.”